Oklahoma State wrestling received a commitment Wednesday night from the No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound wrestler in the 2020 class.
AJ Ferrari of Allen, Texas, announced his decision on Instagram Live that he would wrestle for the Cowboys over other wrestling powerhouses Penn State, Ohio State, Rutgers and Nebraska.
“All the schools had different benefits, different things to go back and forth on, its been tough with everything, but I think the best school for me and my family for my goals is Oklahoma State University,” Ferrari said during the ceremony held at a dining room table in a family home.
The top-ranked prospect according to FloWrestling made the announcement by placing shirts of the five programs on the table in front of him before ultimately grabbing the OSU shirt and putting it on.
Ferrari is projected to be a 197-pound prospect, which should be a big boost for the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State will be without recent graduate Preston Weigel, who was a two-time All-American at the weight, and will likely go with an underclassman who has no starting dual experience this season.
The top two contenders to replace Weigel this year are redshirt sophomore Austin Harris, who was 5-8 in open tournaments last year, and redshirt sophomore Bear Hughes, a Coweta native who had a 12-7 record last year while wrestling at 184 pounds. They are the only two Cowboys on the OSU roster listed as 197-pounders.
While they will get a chance on the mat this year, they will have a tall order defending that spot when Ferrari arrives on campus.
Ferrari is a two-time Ironman champion and a 2018 Cadet world bronze medalist.
Ferrari grew up in Texas, but last year competed for Blair Academy in New Jersey before transferring to Bergen Catholic in the middle of the school year. Due to the transfer, he was not eligible to compete in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association postseason.
The Ferrari family moved back to Allen, Texas, this past spring – one of the reasons being the inability to find an affordable home in Oradell, New Jersey, where Bergen Catholic is located, along with a health issue in the family, according to a Facebook post by the family.
Being close to home could have also played a part in choosing the Pokes, as Ferrari made it pretty apparent that his decision just based on his college wrestling career.
“At the time you’re at each school, you think its definitely the one – it’s the best school in the whole world, you feel like,” Ferrari said. “But you’ve got to go back, talk to your family, pray and really look at everything, not just on paper. You’ve got to see how it will put you in the right way not necessarily just in the next four to five years for me, but the next 10 years for my brothers or my future kids or maybe eventually a coaching position.”
And if a longterm goal is to be a wrestling coach, John Smith has quite the coaching tree established.
There are eight Division I wrestling head coaches with ties to Smith, including Mark Branch at Wyoming, North Carolina’s Coleman Scott – an Olympic bronze medalist – Pat Popolizio of NC State and most recently Neil Erisman, who is taking over the newly created wrestling program at Arkansas-Little Rock. There’s also a multitude of assistant coaches at the college level with OSU ties, and many high school coaches with a Cowboy connection – including area coaches Ladd Rupp at Perry and Albert White in Cushing.
Ferrari’s commitment solidifies a No. 1-ranked recruiting class for John Smith’s program. It includes No. 2-ranked Dustin Plott of Tuttle, No. 11 Trevor Mastrogiovanni of Blair Academy, No. 20 Jakason Burks of Omaha, Nebraska, No. 28 Luke Surber of Tuttle and No. 78 Konner Doucet of Comanche. The individual rankings for those Cowboys are based on FloWrestling rankings.
The earliest Ferrari and this loaded recruiting class can put pen to paper is Nov. 13 with the initial signing day for all sports outside of football.